If you have lemon balm in your garden and have done for a while, you most likely have quite a few lemon balm plants in your garden, and then some!
If that is the case for you, it is easy to forget how amazing and splendid this plant is, or maybe you didn’t know? Or maybe you do! Then you may read on whilst nodding your head in a knowingly pleased fashion.
Lemon balm, sweet balm or just balm (or Bawne in olde English), Latin name Melissa officinalis.
Melissa is from the Greek word signifying ‘bee’. Bee keepers would (and still can) rub their hives with balm to attract bees and to keep bees together. Plus bees love lemon balm flowers (for more bee loving plants read this post here).
But medicinally and historically what lemon balm has been used for is melancholy and long life.
Carmelite Water, a closely guarded recipe made by monks in France (in the way back and when) has lemon balm as its main ingredient along with lemon peel, nutmeg and angelica root (ahh, don’t be fooled by the water part… ‘water’ is wine- as wine is water for some of us!).
Learning Herbs has a great article about Carmelite Water along with their recipe if you want to give it a crack.
Mrs M. Grieve reckons it is highly useful against nervous headache and neuralgic affections. Just steeping lemon balm with a bottle of white wine can “comfort the heart and driveth away melancholy and sadness”
Paracelus said that “essence of balm given in Canary wine every morning will renew youth, strengthen the brain, relieve languishing nature and prevent baldness” If that’s your excuse to drink wine every morning Paracelus you strike a good argument!
I’ve had days where I’ve felt a little blah, a bit dark… and I get a definite lift if I munch on a lemon balm leaf, well maybe not so much a lift but a forgetfulness as in “hmm, that’s right, I was feeling down before, ha! wonder what about?”.
You can dry lemon balm but I find that the scent doesn’t really remain and it’s better to use it fresh if possible.
Lemon balm also has wonderful anti-viral properties, particually effective against herpes simplex, more commonly known as cold sores.
I’m blessed to not get cold sores but my boys do now and again so I made up a balm that goes onto their cold sores at first tingle. Works a treat. Article and recipe can be found here (goodness, written back in 2015!).
To grow lemon balm it likes a shady to semi shady spot and plenty of moisture, though it’s pretty adaptable and can handle being neglected (as long as it’s in the right spot!). If you don’t want it to self seed all around the show then nip out the flowers as soon as you see them. Optimum harvest time is late spring and throughout summer.
So I hope you can now look at your lemon balm with new appreciation or you’re now well excited about getting lemon balm into your life! Click here to see availability of Lemon Balm.